Updated: Jan 22
We're rolling in the fresh spring time feeling early this year - frankly once Christmas and New Year are over I have no love for the winter.
As part of the new blog, I want to share with you some of the exciting behind the scenes stuff you don't see on a polished Instagram post. When you're working with unconventional flavours you need to figure out what's just right, and it can be tricky or sometimes a disaster. This recipe certainly was the latter in the beginning!
I did plenty of research into how I'd go about this. As a teen I was gifted The Hummingbird Bakery book which included some lush Lavender Cupcakes, that were one of my favourites growing up, so I took some tips from this recipe to make sure I got the perfect fragrant balance of the flowers without it being horrific. Equally, its difficult to get enough fragrance through so that it doesn't just taste like a lemon cake - the struggle is real.
This recipe was inspired by Sophie Miura's MYDOMAINE post, 'These Spring Cocktails Will Make You Forget About The Winter Weather.' Which is exactly what we need right now, amarite?? You can check out Sophie's post and many more great cocktail ideas at www.mydomaine.com.
220ml Vegan Milk (I used Oat Milk)
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
75ml Vegetable Oil
200g Caster Sugar
250g Plain Flour
1/2 TBSP Baking Powder
1 Pinch of Salt
1 Lemon's Zest
3 Drops Sicilian Lemon Oil
3 TBSP Dried Lavender Flowers
3 Drops Purple Food Gel
25ml Vegan Milk
1 tsp Dried Lavender Flowers
50g Vegan Spread
300g Icing Sugar
5-8 Drops Purple Food Gel
2 Drops Sicilian Lemon Oil
3 tbsp Prosecco
Method - Sponge
1. First things first (I'm the realest)
Take about 120ml of your dairy free milk and add the dried lavender flowers. Give it a good mix, cover and leave in the fridge for 1-2 hours minimum.
Tip: The longer you leave this, the more fragrant the milk will be - if you can, leave it overnight to infuse.
2. Vegan Buttermilk vs. Eggs
When you're making a vegan cake you obviously can't use eggs. I personally find that egg alternatives you can buy in milk-carton-like things don't bake as well either, so I prefer to make my own vegan buttermilk. Do this by taking the remaining milk and adding half a lemon's juice. Give it a little whisk with a fork and leave it to sit for at least 5 minutes to curdle slightly.
Tip: I like to leave this for around 10 - 20 minutes. I don't think it actually makes much difference in the final product, but I'm anal so I like the piece of mind knowing it's DEFINITELY as thick as it's going to get. Also, if you put it in a vacuum seal jar you can give it a good shake, and safely store any leftovers in the fridge to use later on.
3. Turn up the heat, honey.
At The Palette Newcastle, one of our signatures is our loaf-shaped cakes. You can use any tin you see fit, just keep an eye on it as it cooks as you'll need to adjust the temperature accordingly. General rule of thumb - the lower the surface area of your tin, the lower the heat should be otherwise the outer sides will burn before the centre cooks.
Line your chosen tin with a little vegan spread or oil and greaseproof paper. This recipe is a little more dense than some of our other cakes, so I opted to line the whole tin just to be safe.
Here, we're using IKEA's HEMMABAK loaf tin, that measures 35cm x 14cm x 6cm. It's a big boii.
Preheat the oven to 170C.
Next, pop the caster sugar and vegetable oil into a bowl and mix - I used a standing electric mixer (because I'm lazy) on a low speed - until incorporated. You can also use melted coconut oil or vegan spread for this, TREX vegetable fat is a great alternative. Note: I doubled up the mixture when taking these images because I used HUGE loaf tins, so don't worry if it seems like you have less!
5. Keep on keeping on
Continue to combine the rest of your dry ingredients - flour, baking powder and salt, until the mixture resembles the beautiful white sand of beaches a absolutely cannot afford to visit. Be sure to scrape the sides and re-mix a few times to ensure everything is incorporated nicely.
6. Milk it
Give the prepared vegan buttermilk a quick whisk - or shake if you stored it in a jar. Start adding slowly allowing the two mixtures to incorporate properly. Be sure to scrape the sides again, and make sure there isn't any dry mixture stuck at the bottom of the bowl - most food mixers leave a little island hiding in the bottom of the batter. Once fully incorporated, beat the mixture, or turn the mixer to a medium-high setting for 30 seconds - 1 minute. This will introduce air and make the cake fluffier, be careful not to over beat as this will cause the cake to sink.
7. Now for the weird bit
By now the mixture should be slightly gloopier than a regular cake mixture. Strain the dried lavender flowers from the milk prepared earlier and gently fold it into the mixture. Find any way you feel comfortable with this. In tests, I've used coffee filters and loose-weave fabric, but I've found that a regular sieve does the job just fine.
Tip: I found it best to fold the lavender milk in by hand to avoid over beating the mixture.
8. Add all the sparkle
Add in the Sicilian lemon oil, gel food colouring and some freshly grated lemon zest. Honestly, you can really do this at any point with the mixer if you're concerned about getting it all mixed in by hand, but I prefer to add the lemon zest as fresh as possible to the mixture so I do it last. Stir in well.
Tip: Food colouring loses a little potency as it cooks, so it will come out a paler colour than the raw mixture you see in the bowl. This recipe only uses a tiny bit to give it a little hint of lavender, the main colour comes in the frosting. If you want to add more food colouring to make a vibrant lilac colour, add in a little more lemon zest and a pinch of sugar to balance out the food colour flavour that will come with additional food colouring.
9. Get baked
Fill the prepared tin with the mixture and place in the centre of your preheated oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes then check by lightly touching the top of the cake, it should spring back nicely - go the extra mile by inserting a skewer in the centre-most parts of the cake, if it comes out clean you're good to go. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10-20 minutes before turning onto a wire cooling rack. Don't remove the paper until its completely cooled.
Method - Frosting
1. Rinse and repeat
Like with the sponge, you're going to need some lavender infused dairy free milk. Add 25ml milk to 1 tsp dried lavender flowers. Give it a good stir and allow to sit in the fridge for AS LONG AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.
Tip: The frosting is incredibly sweet - it's made from sugar for cryin' out loud, so it can handle more fragrance here, as well as it only being 25ml of milk. For best results, I found leaving at least this portion of lavender milk overnight gave a more pronounced flavour.
2. Beat it like MJ
Beat your choice of vegan spread until softened, then add the icing sugar on a low setting with a whisk attachment - if you're doing this by hand Kudos to you. While I love using TREX in a cake, it's not best for frosting as it literally tastes like fat - you're better to go for a buttery-flavoured spread here.
Strain the lavender milk into the mixture, add a few drops of Sicilian lemon oil and combine. Add in the food colouring and Prosecco. Once fully combined turn up the mixer to a high setting to get a super light and fluffy frosting - don't do this until the mixture is fully incorporated or you'll end up with an icing sugar explosion, I learned the hard way. THE SPLASH COVER DOES NOTHING.
3. 'I'm not even sure what slathering is, but I definitely wanna be a part of it.'
Cover the top of your cooled cake with the frosting by making 'S' shapes with the spatula down the length of the cake - or do whatever you want it's your cake. You can add some nice garnishes here if you like, I went for candied lemon slices and a few sprigs of lavender for good measure but its really not too big-a-deal here.
If you want totally edible garnishes, you could opt out of the lavender, or use some lemon shaped sweets. Alternatively, you could peel a lemon as you would and orange and lightly cook the segments in sugar to make a gooey topper - go wild.
If you liked this recipe please let us know! Tag us on Instagram @ThePaletteNewcastle or use the hashtag #ThePaletteNewcastle.